LaVerne McCoy, retired chief master sergeant in the U.S. Air Force and Milwaukee police sergeant, spoke at the latest UIU Leadership Series event. McCoy, a 1998 graduate from the UIU Milwaukee Center, drove home her message of the importance for today’s graduates to have integrity and develop their leadership skills throughout their careers.
“If I had (graduated from college) and gotten a job at your age, I would have been ahead of the game,” said McCoy to her audience of Fayette campus students. “You guys are on your way right now. You are so far ahead of the game.”
McCoy was born and raised in Mississippi, one of 16 children, and later moved to the Milwaukee, Wis., area. She dropped out of college shortly after getting married. After divorcing in 1983, McCoy found herself without an education or job skills. As a volunteer Girl Scout troop leader, she took her troop on a field trip to the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin National Guard in Milwaukee. There, she was invited to join. That field trip started her 28-year adventure, according to McCoy.
At 32-years old, McCoy saw an advertisement seeking female officers for the Milwaukee Police Department. “I realized early after my divorce that I had a chance to live to my fullest potential, and not put all my hopes and dreams into someone else,” she said.
Along the way, McCoy said she met people both at the Air National Guard and in the police department who impressed her and they soon became role models. While she respected their way of doing things, and she even tried to emulate their effectiveness, McCoy said she wanted to do what they were doing with a twist — “I want to do it my way.”
Eight years into her career with the force, McCoy realized she was stagnant. She needed a college education if she wanted to pursue her career goals. She set out to find colleges that would allow her to, again, do it her way. McCoy’s search led her to Upper Iowa University.
“Upper Iowa taught me things I didn’t know I didn’t know,” she said.
Immediately after her UIU graduation, McCoy was promoted to sergeant.
McCoy has led several educational initiatives in the city of Milwaukee including a successful gun safety education program, which included a book written and designed by McCoy and several other components. The year before the program started, eight children in the metro area died from accidental shootings. A year later, there were none.
McCoy’s final piece of advice to UIU students is: “Set your goals and don’t accept no.”
“I expect great things from all of you,” she concluded.